Details of Disappearance Coral was last seen in Flint, Michigan on September 22, 1998, the day after her fourteenth birthday.
She lived with her grandmother, Lois Arlene Janish, and Janish's boyfriend in an apartment on Ann Arbor Street. She left her grandmother's apartment to go to another apartment upstairs and return a book. She never returned, and was reported missing two days later.
Earlier on the same day Coral disappeared, an older friend, Melissa Pierce, took her to the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to report she was being abused. Late that night, Coral called Pierce from a pay phone at Ann Arbor and West Court streets near the White Horse Tavern.
Coral said she was having trouble at home and needed to leave Flint. She asked Pierce if she could go and live with her.
Pierce was in another part of the state at the time. She got a ride to Flint with her uncle, but by the time they arrived Coral had vanished. Pierce and her uncle drove around looking for her, but couldn't find her. She has never been heard from again.
Coral was raised by her grandmother, Lois Janish, as her mother was found to be an unfit parent. Her mother, who maintained sporadic contact with her, died of a drug overdose in 1996. Her father's identity is unknown.
Coral grew up in poverty; she and Janish changed residences frequently and often relied on public assistance, such as food stamps, to meet their needs. Her younger half-sister was raised separately from Coral and eventually placed in foster care. The two girls last saw each other at their mother's funeral.
Coral attended McKinley Middle School in 1998. Prior to her disappearance, she had been getting into trouble for being truant from school, rebelling against her grandmother's rules and associating with drug users.
The DHS had investigated Janish for abusing and/or medically neglecting Coral five times. A male acquaintance who was in his mid-twenties when Coral disappeared said he had regularly smoked crack cocaine with Coral, and that Janish had offered him "time alone" with Coral in exchange for drugs.
He said he noticed signs of physical abuse on Coral and the girl complained her grandmother had mistreated her. Coral's loved ones describe her as an intelligent but angry, withdrawn teenager. She had missed so much school that foster care placement was being considered.
For over a decade after Coral's disappearance, investigators said they believed she'd run away to escape the troubles in her life and possibly traveled to Los Angeles, California with an adult boyfriend.
However, in July 2013, Janish was charged with her granddaughter's murder. A photo of her is posted below this case summary. Authorities stated she had always been a suspect in Coral's disappearance and had given inconsistent statements over the years.
They believe her boyfriend, Bruce Strait, was also involved in Coral's death, but he died of alcohol-related complications in 2000. He had been released from prison shortly before Coral vanished, and she had accused him of sexual abuse. Strait allegedly said he wasn't going to return to prison because of her allegations.
Investigators stated that during interrogations in 2011 and 2012, Janish admitted smoking crack cocaine and said her granddaughter was dead. She allegedly confessed to beating Coral to death with a hammer and said she and her boyfriend dismembered the body, but she altered and recanted her story more than once.
In September 2015, she reached a plea deal with the prosecution and pleaded no contest to second-degree murder. She was sentenced to nine years in prison. As Janish is already 75 years old, there's a distinct possibility she will not live long enough to be released.
Foul play is suspected in Coral's case due to the circumstances involved. Her body has never been found.
- Flint Police Department
Updated 10 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 13, 2015; details of disappearance updated.